Column No. 300: A look back at Year 6; Brad Hoshaw, Rah Rah tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 1:54 pm December 9, 2010

Column No. 300

A look back at year 6.

by Tim McMahan,

Goddamn. Just look at that number. 3 0 0. Not all were as perfect as a bowling score, but still… that’s a lot of friggin’ words. And I haven’t run out yet.

It’s hard to believe that six years ago Column No. 1, an interview with then hot propriety Willy Mason, was published, Dec. 2, 2004. Golden-boy entrepreneur John Heaston and the work-hardened galley hands at The Reader have been kind enough to keep this page open to me all these long years, with hopefully many more to come. Don’t believe all that putrefied tripe about the “death of print.” Newspapers will be around long after that shiny iPad you’re getting for Christmas has been recycled a dozen times over by the good folks at PBR.

So, as I crank out yet another recap and update some of the “better” columns of the past year, I thank you, precious reader, for coming along for the ride, always willing to crack your window whenever the gas accidentally escapes. At the same time, I kneel before you, hat in hand, eyes turned downward, and beg you to send your column ideas via dancing electron to Your thoughts make my thoughts grow, and are the fertilizer that keeps this mighty tree sturdy as we enter year seven — just in time for Second Grade.

Column 255: The Letting Go, Jan. 20, 2010 — We said goodbye to a pure garage-punk genius named Jay Reatard, who at age 29 was way too young to die. Jay’s impact on our modern world is still being felt by all of us who value flash-brave creativity, and without a doubt, his spark always will be felt long after we let him go. We’re still letting go of The 49’r, whose bitter demise remains fresh in our minds. When this column was published, the hopeful were organizing the “Save the 49’r” Facebook page, but I think we all knew better. You can’t stop graft. The lights went out in October. The wrecking ball awaits. Fuck you, CVS, you overblown toilet-paper store. I’ll never step foot in your fluorescent nightmare. And yes, Mr. Gray, voters will remember.

Column 258: Long Live the Hole, Feb. 10, 2010 — In the dead of winter, all-ages basement punk club The Hole was forced to move out of its hole beneath the Convicted skate shop across the street to the above-ground relic that used to house jaunty Omaha gay bar The Diamond on south 16th. It looked like a new beginning for a venue that some thought could serve kids the same way the Cog Factory did in the ’90s. But the location was too good to be true, and in September The Hole was dug up once again, forced to move to another basement, this time beneath Friendly’s Family Bookstore in Benson, where it now resides. Probably. A glance at the club’s Myspace and Facebook pages shows no listings for upcoming shows, and the sign above the club’s alley entrance is gone.

Column 262 & 263: Austin Bound, March 10, 2010 — Why should local bands play at South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin? Little Brazil, It’s True, Digital Leather, The Mynabirds, Thunder Power, Eagle Seagull and UUVVWWZ all gave their best reasons, which boiled down to: 1) exposure, and 2) fish tacos. Despite playing to crowds that ranged from a few to a few hundred, none of them got their “big break,” but they did get king-sized hangovers and lots of memories. I haven’t decided if I’m going back this year…

Column 266: No Excuses, April 14, 2010 It was an opportunity to point an accusatory finger directly at you, the local indie music community, and warn you that there were no excuses this time. None. The MAHA Music Festival line-up — Spoon, The Faint, Superchunk — and an ultra-cheap $33 ticket made sure of that. If Omaha really wanted a true indie rock festival — the beginning of a Midwestern Lolla or Coachella or Bonnaroo — it had to turn up at Lewis & Clark Landing this year. And you did, thousands of you for what is now being rumored as the last Faint performance ever (though I’ll believe it only when Todd tells me so). Now comes word that an already crowded local music festival season is about to get more crowded next year. Will MAHA be able to get you to come out again in 2011? Two words: Arcade Fire. Dare to dream.

Column 267: Identity Crisis, April 21, 2010 — This bitter live review of Digital Leather’s performance at Harrah’s Casino was a chance to whine like a pussy at how the band on stage only vaguely resembled the one heard on their amazing albums (Blow MachineSorcerer, Warm Brother). In hindsight, well, I had nothing to whine about. Digital Leather live is a filthy, punk factory that bleeds anger on its own level, whether or not I can hear the friggin’ keyboards. If I want nuanced subtlety, I can always stay home and listen to the records (something we’ll all get a chance to do when Digital Leather releases its latest work of art in 2011).

Column 271: Comfort Zone, May 19, 2010 — Stephen Pedersen, Omaha’s version of Buckaroo Banzai (high-fallutin’ Kutak-Rock lawyer by day / Saddle Creek rock star by night) explained why he and the rest of the aging yuppies in Criteria are content only playing the occasional reunion show. In fact, the band hasn’t played again since that Waiting Room gig in May. Instead, the esteemed counselor has his eyes set on a different sort of reunion — this time with his old pals from seminal Nebraska indie band Slowdown Virginia, who are prepping to take the stage Dec. 23 at the club that (sort of) bears its name — 16 years after their first show. I’m sure they’ll all look and sound exactly the same.

Column 277: A Modest Proposal, June 30, 2010 David Fitzgerald from Athens, GA’s Flagpole magazine did me a solid by writing a review of the debut album from It’s True. Alas, his kind words weren’t enough to keep the band alive, as the same evening the column hit the streets, It’s True announced from stage its demise. So we said goodbye to one of Omaha’s most promising acts… didn’t we? Don’t be so sure.

* * *

There are a couple of shows worth checking out tonight at the usual hot spots.

At The Waiting Room, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies return to the stage with a bunch of new material. Opening is relatively new Americana/Folk Rock act The Big Deep. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., it’s Regina, Saskatchewan indie band Rah Rah, who was named named “Best Alternative New Artist” and “Best New Canadiana Artist” in iTunes Best of 2009 list. They’re opening for local faves Honey & Darling, along with Canby. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Soapbox Riot (& Speed! Nebraska showcase) Saturday; OEAA showcase this weekend, It’s True video…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:15 pm July 16, 2010
Soapbox Riot 2009

Gary Dean Davis takes the plunge at last year's Soapbox Riot, July 18, 2009.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s a busy weekend for music and violence.

The highlight is Saturday’s second annual Soapbox Riot at Seymour Smith soapbox track, 72nd and Washington, brought to you by Speed! Nebraska Records and the fabulous O’Leaver’s Pub.

Like last year, a cadre of racing daredevils will risk it all in a series of suicide runs down the track riding on top of — and inside of — some of the most frightening pieces of rolling wreckage that you’ll ever see outside of a blazing downtown Baghdad street. I’m sure there’s some sort of trophy that goes to the winner, but the real prize is the right to brag that you’re the stupidest, craziest sumbitch in Nebraska. Last year, Mercy Rule’s Jon Taylor took that honor after donating a foot-long strip of his own skin directly to the burning asphalt. Who is bat-shit crazy enough to knock this idiot-king from atop of the blood-soaked soapbox mountain? Find out when racing begins sometime between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Beer garden and grilled food will be available (of course).

Later that evening, after the survivors are released from the UNMC Emergency Room, a post-race concert by some of Nebraska’s mangled finest is happening at O’Leaver’s. On the showbill will be the scab-covered Speed! Nebraska All-Stars: Mercy Rule, Ideal Cleaners, The Wagon Blasters, Mezcal Brothers, The Third Men and Techlepathy. The rock show starts at 9 p.m. and is the usual $5. Event of the summer? You decide!

Also going on this weekend…

Tonight and Saturday is the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase in Benson — two nights of bands and musicians showing their wares to OEAA academy members in consideration for this year’s awards, and also vying for a slot as an opening band at next Saturday’s MAHA Festival.

Wondering why no Saddle Creek, Slumber Party, Speed! Nebraska and other local touring bands aren’t on the schedule for an event that’s supposed to highlight the best and brightest talent in Omaha? In a response to a blog entry that criticized the lack of the above talent — and called the showcase a “Benson thing” — OEAA board member MarQ Manner said:

“As far at the Summer Showcase goes we only used submitted bands this year — no one from those labels submitted — there are a lot of acts from North O, Mid-Town, Benson, West Omaha, Lincoln, some from just outside of the metro small towns in Iowa-bands that rarely if ever play Benson venues-etc — I wanted bands that were excited about the event itself this year – so we didn’t do any invites.”

In other words, no one from those labels was invited because no one at all was invited. Instead, an open call went out for bands to participate (I wonder if anyone was turned down.)  And of course, none of the bands will be getting paid, presumably because the OEAA’s are doing them a favor by letting them take part in the showcase. Well, at least the bands aren’t being charged to play the showcase… yet.

Judging by a recent Facebook post that was hastily taken down after it got too much attention, there are a number of musicians who are irritated about an event that is basically a fund raiser for the Benson bar scene — see, while the bands aren’t making a penny (and in fact, Lincoln bands are out gas money and other expenses) all the bars involved will be raking in cash from booze sales thanks to the free entertainment on their stages.

Am I kicking a dead horse here? Yeah, probably. As I’ve said before, I don’t think you’re going to notice any guns sticking out of the ears of the bands that are taking part. If you’re irritated about not getting paid, then don’t play the event. And that’s exactly what’s happening — no serious label acts are participating, and only a couple notable touring musicians (mostly Benson regulars) are involved. As the overused saying goes: It is what it is. And it’s also $10 per night for a wristband that gets you into all the bars all night long — a good deal, and actually a pretty good time.

Here’s the schedule:

Friday, July 16

Louie’s Bar
10:30-11:05-Matt & Ben
11:20-11:55-Black On High

Burke’s Pub
8:50-9:25-Doug Kabourek
9:40-10:15-Western Electric
10:30-11:05-Matt Banta
11:20-12:05-Daniel Christian

The Sydney
8:10-8:45-The 9’s
9:00-9:35-Scott Severin & The Milton Burlesque
9:50-10:25-Brad Hoshaw (solo)
11:30-12:05-Civic Minded
12:20-12:55-Ground Tyrants

The Waiting Room
8:10-8:45-All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
9:00-9:35-Voodoo Method
9:50-10:25-Betsy Wells
10:40-11:15-Jes Winter Band
11:30-12:05-After The Fall

PS Collective
8:00-8:35-Rachel D.
8:50-9:25-Hello From Ghost Valley
9:40-10:15-Travelin’ Mercies
10:30-11:05- Ember Shrag
11:20-11:55-Lonely Estates
12:10-12:45-The End In Red

Barley Street Tavern
8:10-8:45-MC Gringo
9:50-10:25-Carli Alexandra
11:30-12:05-Ben Sieff & The Murder Of Crowes

Saturday, July 17

8:50-9:25-Dive Kings
9:40-10:15-The Minnahoonies
10:30-11:05- Army Of 2600
11:20-11:55-Emotional Baggage
12:10-12:45-Disposable Heroes

Burkes Pub
9:40-10:15-Sack Of Lions
10:30-11:05-Jill Marie
11:20-12:05-Broken Truth
12:20-12:55-DJ Oddible

The Sydney
9:50-10:25-High Art
10:40-11:15-Answer Team
11:30-12:05-Matt Whipkey Trio
12:20-12:55-Rock Paper Dynamite

The Waiting Room
8:10-8:45-Witness Tree
9:00-9:35-Lucas Kellison & The Assembled Soul
9:50-10:25-Mitch Gettman Band
10:40-11:15-Midwest Dilemma
11:30-12:05-Korey Anderson Band

PS Collective
8:00-8:35-24 Hour Cardlock
8:50-9:25-Matt Amandus
9:40-10:15-Shannon Marie
10:30-11:05- Citzens Band
11:20-11:55-Cass Fifty & The Family Gram
12:10-12:45-OK Hemingway

Barley Street Tavern
8:10-8:45-Gordan Shumway
9:00-9:35-Vern Fergesen
9:50-10:25-Edge Of Arbor
10:40-11:15-Chantilly Reign
11:30-12:05-Platte River Rain
12:20-12:55-Big Al Band

What else is going on?

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear — one of the Midwest’s best indie pop acts — returns with local acts Anniversaire and Skypiper. Show starts at 9 p.m., and the price is right: FREE.

Sunday night, former Sub Pop band (now on Brushfire Records) Rogue Wave plays at The Waiting Room with Gamble House. $12, 9 p.m.

* * *

Finally, despite having broken up, and with their last-ever live appearances taking place next Saturday as part of the MAHA Festival, It’s True has just released a new video for “Take This One From Me” — one of the highlight tracks of their recently released debut full-length. I’m not sure who directed it (presumably Zac Eubank), but he did an impressive job shooting the entire video in one well-choreographed take — Robert Altman would be proud. Take a look.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Full Desaparecidos reunion; Column 278 (Justin Bieber sighting); Maps & Atlases tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm July 7, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

Landon Hedges of Little Brazil confirmed that the Desaparecidos reunion July 31 at the Concert for Equality will be an old-school full band event featuring all five original Desa members: Hedges, Conor Oberst, Denver Dalley, Ian McElroy and Matt Baum. For fans and followers of the Omaha indie music scene, this will be an historic event, especially when you factor in the Lullaby for the Working Class reunion.

I can think of two other bands that also are ripe for reunions — Commander Venus and Slowdown Virginia. Why not? They’re all going to be there…

* * *

Column 278 is a rehash of recent blog fodder, including the Concert for Equality announcement (that news broke right at deadline), and the It’s True break-up announcement (with one added comment: I don’t think you’ve heard the last of It’s True’s songs. Hawkins isn’t going to stop playing music; but he may stop playing it with other people, and what started out as a solo project could end up that way).

And one other thing: I was at Westroads Saturday afternoon picking up a new pair of flip-flops when I had a brush with this generation’s Donnie Osmond. As Teresa and I were leaving the DSW we heard high-pitched screams — a cross between fear, pain and orgasm — coming from the second floor of the mall. The cause of the turmoil was gliding down the escalator right in front of us, surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards and white-shirt security — teen heartthrob Justin Bieber and his bangs, looking like any other 16-year-old spending an afternoon at the mall.

Bieber looked bored and disinterested as flocks of teen-aged girls clustered just out of arms’ reach snapping photos with their cell phones. Yes, there were tears.

As the screams faded down the hallway I imagined a distraught Conor Oberst walking through the crowd, hands covering his ears, headed in the other direction, lost in thought trying to solve the problems of Arizona, Fremont and the state of civil rights in these United States, the whole time being completely ignored. Ah, Conor… it could have been you.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it’s Maps & Atlases with Drink Up Buttercup and The Globes. M&A’s latest, Perch Patchwork (Barsuk), is uptempo indie-pop with an acoustic flair, though it in no way resembles modern folk. Nothing twangy about these guys. Seattle’s The Globes plays trippy math rock that can slide into psychedelic. Mesmerizing. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Son of 76 and the Watchmen; Say it ain’t true: It’s True calling it quits?

Son of 76 and the Watchmen

Son of 76 and the Watchmen

by Tim McMahan,

Bicentennial Man: Son of 76 and the Watchmen

Son of 76 and the Watchmen celebrates Shangri-La.

Lincoln’s Son of 76 and The Watchmen is not a blues band, not that there’s anything wrong with playing the blues.

The Son of 76 himself, Josh Hoyer, sees some advantages to being aligned with the genre. “If you’re called a blues band, blues fans will come out to see you even if you don’t play the blues,” he said.

Conversely, there are those who go out of their way to avoid blues bands, having been burned too many times by the army of Blues Hammer (i.e., “blues rock”) acts that have eroded the genre to something that just barely crosses the line from being a cover band.  Hoyer quoted a friend who summed it up this way: “What went wrong with the blues world is that a bunch of old white guys with day jobs put on bowling shirts and began playing the same Stevie Ray Vaughn covers,” he said. “Blues is a pretty vast genre, but the majority of guys around here are stuck in that world.”

It was my own close-minded take on blues that almost kept me from discovering Hoyer’s band at last year’s Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) summer showcase. Someone had told me they were a straight-up blues act, and I nearly left before they hit the stage. Luckily, I didn’t.

While there are blues overtones to some of their music — thanks in part to Hoyer’s throaty, deep vocal delivery — Son of 76 has more in common with classic American rock acts like Warren Zevon and Springsteen. On their new album, Letters from Shangri-La, the band sways through a plethora of genres, from the piano-driven rock of “She’s the Kind of Woman,” to the Celtic-flavored ballad “Annie’s Heart,” to the NOLA style of the title track, to the doo-wap of “The Moon,” to, yeah, the blues grind of “‘Til She’s Lovin’ Someone Else.” It’s Hoyer’s voice — which lies somewhere between Tom Waits, Dr. John and Elvis — that ties the styles together into something uniquely cinematic, original and thoroughly authentic.

Born in 1976 in Lincoln, Hoyer is a veteran of a number of bands including The Magnificent Seven and Electric Soul Method.  While he lived most of his life in the Star City, the music on Shangri-La was inspired by travels throughout the South. “I took a trip down Highway 61 and went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a lot of small towns in Louisiana,” he said. “Instead of taking pictures, I remembered what I’d seen and put it into the songs and lyrics.”

But not all of his songs are based on his travels. With the lines, “Well that coward was never a man / Just a scared little boy, with a gun in his hand,” the elegiac “Starkweather Son” has obvious local origins.

“Everyone in Lincoln has a Starkweather story,” Hoyer said. “I thought no one could write about it better than Springsteen.”

But then one night at a party during another round of Starkweather tales, Hoyer heard one that was hard to top. “This kid said, ‘My great uncle was Starkweather. I’m a Starkweather.’ He shared what it was like to grow up with the name,” Hoyer said. “He’d said that many of his relatives had been driven away and how hard it was to grow up in Lincoln, but that he wasn’t going leaving. He hadn’t done anything wrong. I knew it was a story that would make a great song.”

One of the best tracks off the new album, the song burns with a grim intensity, thanks to Hoyer’s band of local pros that includes Brian Morrow, bass; Nick Semrad, piano; Luke Sticka, rhythm guitar; Justin Jones on drums, and guitarist Werner Althaus, who also co-produced and recorded the album in his basement studio.

Hoyer said he met Althaus at an open jam and realized he was “the missing piece of the puzzle,” but was too shy to ask him to play in his band. “I finally got the nerve up,” Hoyer said. “For me, he perfectly finishes the songs I write by how he approaches music. He seems locked in on my ideas.”

Althaus, who sounds like a Midwestern Arnold Schwarzenegger thanks to a slight German accent, said that while Hoyer writes most of the music, everyone in the band gets involved putting the songs together and offering ideas. “Josh used to be much more controlling,” Althaus said. “In his previous bands, he told people exactly what to play. So this was a new thing for him.”

He said he doesn’t understand where the band’s blues tag came from. “I can hear the influence, but I don’t hear the blues,” Althaus said. “When people say I’m a blues player, I tell them that I’m not. I play what I want to play. I don’t listen to it or study the old masters, but if a blues vocal line fits into a song, why not?”

He added that the band’s musicians have a broad background in a variety of musical styles. “If someone takes it somewhere, we draw on what we know,” Althaus said. “We all have the basic vocabulary.”

“They’re all stellar players, and they’ve trusted me,” Hoyer said. “There have been times when I’ve written something that they’ve said is weird, but they’ll try it anyway.”

With a band that consists mostly of seasoned veteran musicians, Hoyer said touring may not be a realistic option. “We’re all adults,” he said. “Everyone except for Nick (Semrad) has a mortgage. Whenever I think about touring, it seems like a pipe dream. Maybe I’m killing the dream before it happens.”

For now, Hoyer is content booking local shows. “We sold a thousand copies of last album playing Lincoln and Omaha,” he said. “We’re building a crowd just playing at home. That’s pretty cool.”

Son of 76 and The Watchmen plays with The Kris Lager Band and Matt Cox, Thursday, July 1, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $6. For more information, visit band also is playing at Harrah’s Stir Lounge July 3 at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.

* * *

It's True at Slowdown Jr., June 30, 2010

It's True at Slowdown Jr., June 30, 2010

Just two months after releasing their debut album, It’s True announced that the band is calling it quits. The announcement came from stage at last night’s show at Slowdown Jr. “This is our third to last show,” said inebriated frontman Adam Hawkins without giving an explanation. “We have this show, and two others, and that’s it.” During the set, someone jokingly suggested to me that it was a publicity stunt. But something tells me the MAHA guys aren’t that brutally savvy — that’s right, the MAHA Festival July 24 would be the band’s last performance (not counting a rumored MAHA after-party), Hawkins said. Their second-to-last show will be in Lincoln tonight at The Bourbon Theater — that is if they are, indeed, breaking up. But something tells me it’s true, which is a shame.

Last night’s performance had all the charm of a drunken wake, with Hawkins taking double shots between songs. Despite proclaiming that he was “wasted,” he still put on one helluva show, calling his pals from Poison Control Center (the opening band) up on stage to join him for a couple songs. The set ended with a 15-minute guitar-noise-odyssey, with Hawkins kneeling with his back to the audience next to Kyle Harvey who was busy creating his own curtain of feedback on electric guitar surrounded by a couple girls on stage along with the PCC folks. The sonic melee didn’t end until after 1 a.m. when the house lights came up — a rare late-night at Slowdown. God only knows what the band has in store for tonight’s show in Lincoln.

* * *

In addition to tonight’s Son of 76 CD release show at The Waiting Room and It’s True at The Bourbon, Dim Light is opening a four-band bill tonight at Slowdown Jr. with The Vingins, and Colorado bands Woodsman and Candy Claw, who have been described as ambient/minimalist/psychedelic rock. $7, 9 p.m.

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 277: An unbiased review of It’s True; Young Veins, It’s True tonight…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: — @ 12:54 pm June 30, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

Column 277: A modest proposal…

An unbiased review of It’s True’s debut album.

It's True CD art

It's True, self-titled

Here was the problem: Everyone knows somebody in It’s True, and very likely is friends with that person.

Maybe it’s affable keyboard player Kyle Houfek, the veteran of a thousand bands (or at least a few). Or frontman Adam Hawkins, who seemingly greets everyone with a warm miss-me? hug (Yeah, he’s one of those). And then there’s bass player Kyle Harvey, the George Washington of the Benson music scene whose bartending gig at The Barley Street Tavern — including “soup and song” night every Monday — has kept the place alive. Not to mention good-guys guitarist Andrew Bailie and drummer Matt Arbeiter.

So everyone knows someone in It’s True, especially the tiny circle of local music “critics.” And everyone knows that everyone knows someone in It’s True. Which brings up the question: Can anyone write a review of the band’s debut full-length and have it be considered unbiased? Even me — the tell-it-like-it-is a-hole who is merely tolerated (and certainly not loved) has been accused of being a homer for It’s True. When I didn’t make it out to their CD release show at the end of April, someone affiliated with the venue asked where I had been. “Of all people, you should have been there. You’re the band’s biggest supporter.” I am? I’ve never even interviewed the full band before — only Hawkins way back in February ’09 when It’s True was really still a solo-acoustic project.

To be honest, people who know my writing know that I don’t play favorites or pull punches for anyone. But still, there would be those who would read a positive review as favoritism, or a pan as a despirate reach for credibility (“He’s only saying it’s shitty because he wants people to think he’s unbiased“).

It was a quandary both for the band and local music journalism in general, but I had this idea: Have someone from outside of our scene write the review, someone who never even heard of the band (which, quite frankly, would be just about anyone outside of Omaha as the band isn’t on a record label and has only done a couple brief tours).

So, early in June, I did a little research with the help of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies website to find a newspaper somewhere in the country with similar demographics as The Reader. I quickly discovered Flagpole Magazine, “everybody’s book on what to do in Athens, GA.” The publication’s verified circulation as of March 2009 was 14,825, very near The Reader‘s unverified 18,500 (as of Dec. 2008). But more importantly, the paper covered Athens — home of R.E.M., Pylon and the B52’s — it’s a town renowned for its music scene.

With a target in site, I sent an e-mail titled “A modest proposal from a fellow alt newspaper,” that explained the situation and simply asked if anyone on the staff would be willing to review the new CD by It’s True. “The review would run word-for-word — fully attributed to the author — as part of my column,” I wrote. And yes, I would even pay for it.

The next day, Flagpole Music Editor Michelle Gilzenrat replied, saying she would reach out to her writers. Critic David Fitzgerald took the challenge. He’s written reviews of CDs by Gorillaz, Titus Andronics, The Black Keys and Tobacco, and will have an interview with Mates of State in the next issue.

So I sent Fitzgerald my one and only copy of the disc. And despite being buried under his own deadlines, I promptly received his draft this past Tuesday. Here it is, uncut, unedited, in its entirety:

IT’S TRUE, self-titled (self-released) — Hello Omaha, thanks for having me! Writing from Athens, Georgia, and charged with the task of crafting an objective review of a band that everyone in Omaha apparently loves, I am glad to say that IT’S TRUE! have a really nice thing going. Something tells me that lead singer Adam Hawkins has heard enough Ben Gibbard comparisons to last him several lifetimes, but, and I intend no pun here, it’s true. Hawkins’s silky smooth vocals, bathed in warm, chiming guitar and summer-y synths, took me back to the early aughts in the best possible way, and while the vaguely emo, indie pop strains of The Postal Service, The Shins, and my hometown’s own Andy LeMaster were never far from my mind, IT’S TRUE! have created a truly lovely record that can stand proudly beside its peers. The opening track, “Take This One from Me,” is a Beach Boys-inflected, dream pop gem that acts as the initial push to this swaying, seaside hammock of an album. The biggest intrusion into an otherwise light and wistful collection of songs is the bluesy, two-chord lament “What Have I Done,” which revels in the power of a smartly rendered refrain, without straying too far from the album’s breezy, radio-friendly aesthetic. Closer “I Think It’s Best (If I Leave)” serves as a near-perfect bookend, striking a melancholy tone that suggests a downward slant to the record as a whole, without letting it slide into legitimately depressing territory. All in all, these guys aren’t doing anything terribly original, but they’re confident, talented performers keeping a particularly accessible brand of indie rock alive, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s true. — David Fitzgerald

Bravo, Mr. Fitzgerald. I couldn’t have said it better myself. With that out of the way, I will add just these two cents:  The CD is the best local release so far this year. And I’m not just saying that…

* * *

Speaking of It’s True, the band is playing tonight at Slowdown Jr. with our old friends from Ames Iowa, Poison Control Center, and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, The Young Veins open a show at The Waiting Room for Rooney, along with Black Gold. Rooney is fronted by Robert Schwartzman, the brother of actor Jason Schwartzman (and an actor himself, having appeared in The Virgin Suicides, among other films). Formerly on Geffen, the band is now self-releasing its material. They fancy their style as “brit-pop,” which seems wrong (more like an American Franz Ferdinand). Openers The Young Veins have a very obvious “Please Please Me”-era Beatles sound that is endearing in its nostalgia. Their latest, Take a Vacation, came out on One Haven Music, but their PR is being handled by Press Here (seems anymore, your publicist is more important than your label). $15, 9 p.m.

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Tomorrow: An interview with Son of 76 and The Watchmen.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Kweller, It’s True round out MAHA; Our Fox tonight, Criteria Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:53 pm May 21, 2010

Catching up on some “news” after being out of town all week on bizness…

The MAHA Music Festival folks announced last Tuesday that Ben Kweller and local boys It’s True will round out the “TD Ameritrade” main stage line-up, and that Saddle Creek’s newest band, The Mynabirds, have been added to the Kum & Go small stage line-up, along with Satchel Grande and the winner of this coming Monday night’s talent show at The Slowdown as well as the winner of another talent contest to be held in Benson next month.

Kweller, a 28-year-old singer/songwriter, toured with Ben Folds and Ben Lee (who remembers him other than Jim Minge?) in 1993.  His C&W-inspired 2008 album Changing Horses (ATO Records) peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard charts, which means, yes, he’s significantly under the radar for a national act and as such is a perfect fit for this festival, whose headliners also include Spoon, Old 97’s, The Faint and Superchunk. Will the addition of Kweller help sell more tickets? I would guess maybe 500, which is significant considering a successful festival is the sum of the all its parts.

It’s True, who has a new album and has played around Omaha a lot this year, was an insignificant addition from a sales perspective (but not from a fun perspective). “We decided that It’s True! was better than any other band we were looking at getting, so why not just book them,” said festival organizer Tre Brashear in an e-mail. “If our other five main stage artists (+ Satchel + Mynabirds) can’t sell enough tickets, then we’ve got problems that a sixth ‘smaller’ main stage band from somewhere else wasn’t going to solve. Plus, we think it would be cool to give them the opportunity to play in front of Mac (MacCaughan) and Laura (Ballance, both from Superchunk and the proprietors of indie powerhouse record label Merge Records). Plus, we just like them.”

You can’t argue with that logic. Now look for MAHA posters to start popping up around town.

Lets get to this weekend…

Our Fox is playing tonight at The Barley Street Tavern with McCarthy Trenching, Love of Everything and probably one other band. According to Our Fox’s Ryan Fox, “Love of Everything is Bobby Burg (who plays in a bunch of Chicago bands including Make Believe and Joan of Arc), and his wife, Elisse. They’re doing a Daytrotter session and stopping here as part of a brief midwest tour.” Their record label is cleverly (if not confusingly) called Record Label.

Fox added that “Ben Brodin (drummer in Our Fox, guitarist in The Mynabirds, drummer/guitarist/etc in McCarthy Trenching, Mal Madrigal, etc.) recorded an LP, Methods of the Mad, under the moniker Before the Toast and Tea, which was released on Bocca Lupo Recordings (which was started by Steve Bartolomei). He’ll probably have a few records on hand to sell as well.” $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Landing on the Moon is opening for the Jes Winter Band at The Waiting Room, along with Lonely Estates and Rock Paper Dynamite. $7, 9 p.m.

And the band that win’s today’s award for “best name,” Peace of Shit, is playing at O’Leaver’s with Watching the Trainwreck and Forbidden Tigers. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night’s marquee show is Criteria at The Waiting Room with Ladyfinger and Masses. So who’s Masses? Even Criteria’s Stephen Pedersen didn’t know. Thankfully, Masses member Eric Nyffeler emailed to say that the band is from Lincoln and “this is only the second or third time we’ve played in Omaha, so not a lot of people know who we are.” The few tracks that I’ve heard from the band are instrumental and are brazenly mathy and bombastic. Masses members are Jon Augustine, Shane Brandt, Mike Vandenberg and Nyffeler. $8, 9 p.m. This one will be crowded.

Also Saturday night, The Beat Seekers (Keith from The Fonzarellies) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Scott Severin and the Milton Burlesque and Whipkey/Zimmerman. $8, 9 p.m.


Box Elders 7-inch; Bye-bye Lala; DL offer continues; It’s True tonight; Mynabirds, Jeremy Messersmith tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 30, 2010

The Box Elder’s new 7-inch on the HOZAC label is finally in stock at the Antiquarium, according to guitarist  Jeremiah McIntyre. Get it while you can. He said the band’s new 12-inch 45 rpm EP will be coming out soon on Captured Tracks out of Brooklyn. It just keeps getting better…

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My download service of choice — — announced that it’s shutting down at the end of May. Or, more accurately, Lala is being shut down by Apple, who purchased the company last December. This is likely the first step in creating a “cloud-based” iTunes that would allow you to access your digital library from any web-connected device. If it works like Lala, then you could upload your entire digital collection “to the cloud,” which would mean you would no longer need to worry about your iPhone/iPod/iPad hard-drive limitation — as long as you had a signal (3G or Wifi) you could listen to anything in your collection. Let us pause and think about the implications of this. Again: Upload entire collection once, access from any Wifi/3G-connected device. Hmmm… Details.

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The Digital Leather $15 early-download + vinyl offer continues despite the fact that the band met its $600 goal in less than a day. “We’re putting a cap on the number that we send out,” DL says. “No more than 150 vinyls with special covers will be produced… any additional funds raised will go toward additional recording equipment. Shawn has his eye on a Manley ELOP limiter, which ‘makes songs sound like heroin,’ so we’ll see how close we come to that. If not that, and probably more likely, additional funds will buy our tickets to Europe this September.” You can get in on this offer here.

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Well, it’s finally here — the It’s True CD release party for the band’s debut full-length. Joining the band on the Waiting Room stage are The Haunted Windchimes (Pueblo, CO) and Omaha favorite Bear Country.

According to Jesse Stanek’s piece in The Reader, the CD is being released on Kyle Harvey’s Slo-Fi Records. As much as I like Kyle’s label, I’m disappointed that someone a bit larger didn’t pick it up. Maybe they will. Look what happened to UUVVWWZ. Their debut came out on Darren Keen’s It Are Good label before Saddle Creek committed to the band and rereleased it. What more does a label like Saddle Creek need from an act besides a quality product (though I haven’t actually heard their CD yet) and willingness to tour? It’s True seemingly could provide both.

Also tonight, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies performs as part of a four-band bill at Slowdown that also includes Satchel Grande. $10, 8 p.m. And Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin headlines an acoustic show at The Hole with Sean Pratt, Brandon Behrens and Allen Schleich of Snake Island –the show is a benefit for the performers upcoming tour of China. $6, 7 p.m.

Tomorrow night is the Mynabirds CD release show with Jeremy Messersmith and The So-So Sailors. This show is in the Slowdown Front Room, which means it could very easily sell out. Get there early (if only to also catch Messersmith’s solo set). $8, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, Son of 76 and The Watchmen are playing at Harrah’s Stir Lounge — one of the few local bands that I think could actually carry off a three-hour set (When is Harrah’s going to figure out that most indie bands’ sets only last (and only should last) about 35 minutes?) $5, 9 p.m.